Torah Sparks

United Synagogue (USCJ) is proud and delighted to bring you Torah Sparks, with insights and learning materials on the Parasha (Torah portion) of the week. Torah Sparks is produced by the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Each week there will be a Dvar Torah - a discussion on some aspect of the reading, by CY faculty, alumni and friends; a Vort - a short thought from Chasidic rebbes or other thinkers about some point in the text; and Table Talk - questions to stimulate discussion on the Parsha around the Shabbat table. Torah Sparks is available here on the Conservative Yeshiva's Shiurim Online Beit Midrash website, as well as by subscription to weekly graphical emails. Please select the Parasha you would like to see - it will display articles from each year. A printable PDF is linked at the end of each week's presentation.


Introduction to Tractate Toharot

Introduction to Tractate Toharot   Toharot means purity. Indeed this tractate has the same name is the entire Seder. There are three topics discussed in Tractate Toharot.   1)      The purity of food and liquids. The Torah explicitly states that food and drink can be susceptible to impurity. For instance Leviticus 11:34 reads, “As to […]

Toharot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Toharot, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with purity rules that govern the carrion of a clean bird. Leviticus 17:15 states, “Any person, whether citizen or stranger, who eats what has died or has been torn by beasts shall wash his clothes, bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening, then he […]

Toharot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Toharot, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of the list of 13 rules regarding the carrion of a clean bird.   Mishnah Two 1)      The large feathers and the down contract uncleanness and  convey uncleanness  but do not combine [with the flesh to constitute the prescribed minimum].   a)      Rabbi Ishmael […]

Toharot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Toharot, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction The mishnah now proceeds to talk about the purity rules governing the carrion of an unclean bird, one that is not “kosher.” As we will see, some of these rules are the same as those we saw with regard to the carrion of a clean bird, but some […]

Toharot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Toharot, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction This entire mishnah, save for the first word, can be found in Hullin 9:1. After having explained the rules governing the purity/impurity of the carrion of clean and unclean birds, the mishnah discusses cattle, meaning large herd animals (sheep, goats and cows).   Mishnah One 1)      The hide, […]

Toharot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Toharot, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with food that has become unclean and how much of it needs to be gathered together to convey uncleanness.   Mishnah Five 1)      Food that contracted uncleanness from a “father of uncleanness” and one that contracted uncleanness from a derived uncleanness   may be combined together   […]

Toharot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Toharot, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah continues yesterday’s mishnah which discussed quantities of food that have different levels of impurity that were mixed together.   Mishnah Six 1)      An egg’s worth of food that has second degree uncleanness and an egg’s worth of food that has third decree uncleanness that were mixed […]

Toharot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Toharot, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with loaves or pieces of dough that are stuck together. The principle is that if one loaf or piece of bread is defiled, they are all regarded as defiled. They retain this impurity even if they are later separated.   Mishnah Seven 1)      Pieces of […]

Toharot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Toharot, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Today’s mishnah continues to deal with pieces of dough that have different levels of impurity and then become stuck together.   Mishnah Eight 1)      A piece of dough that had first degree uncleanness, and then others became stuck to it, they all become unclean in the first degree. […]

Toharot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 9

Toharot, Chapter One, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      Holy loaves  in whose hollows there was holy water, if one contracted uncleanness from a sheretz, they all become unclean.   2)      In the case of loaves of terumah, uncleanness is conveyed to two loaves and one is invalidated.   3)      If there was dripping liquid between them, […]

Toharot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Toharot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter ten continues to deal with purity laws related to the pressing of olives. Today’s mishnah deals with the owner of an olive press who locks the workers in the olive press so that they won’t go out and become impure. [Not very nice to the workers, but […]

Toharot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Toharot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If the olive-workers in an olive-press went in and out, and in the olive-press there was unclean liquid, if there is space enough [on the ground] between the liquid and the olives for their feet to be dried on the ground, the olive workers remain clean.   […]

Toharot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Toharot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah deals with taking the olive or grape workers to a mikveh for them to immerse themselves and the vessels with which they will be working.   Mishnah Three 1)      If the olive-workers or the grape harvesters were only brought within the domain of the cavern, it […]

Toharot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Toharot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      One who puts his grapes [into the wine-press] from the baskets or from what was spread out on the ground: a)      Bet Shammai says: he must put them in with clean hands, and if he puts them in with unclean hands he defiles them.   b)      Bet […]

Toharot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Toharot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      One who eats grapes out of the baskets or from what is spread out on the ground, even though they burst and dripped into the wine-press, the wine-press remains clean.   2)      If he eats the grapes out of a grape-basket or from what was spread out […]

Toharot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Toharot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six One who was standing and speaking by the edge of the cistern and some spittle squirted from his mouth, and there arises the doubt whether it reached the cistern or not, the condition of doubt is regarded as clean.   Explanation If the spit went into the […]

Toharot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 7

Toharot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      If one is emptying out the cistern [into jars] and a [dead] sheretz was found in the first jar, all the other jars are deemed unclean; but if it was found in the last, only that one is unclean but all the others remain clean.   2)      […]

Toharot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 8

Toharot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Last mishnah in Toharot!   Mishnah Eight 1)      [The space] between the rollers and grape skins is regarded  as a public domain.   2)      A vineyard in front of the grape harvesters is deemed  to be a private domain and one which is behind the harvesters  is deemed   to […]

Toharot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Toharot, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction When learning this mishnah it is important to remember that produce is not susceptible to impurity until it has been made wet.    Mishnah One 1)      A woman who  was preserving vegetables  in a pot and touched  a leaf outside the pot on a dry spot, even though […]

Toharot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Toharot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction The rabbis decreed that a person who eats unclean food becomes unclean. In our mishnah Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua disagree with regard to his level of uncleanness.   Mishnah Two 1)      Rabbi Eliezer says: he who eats food with first degree uncleanness contracts first decree uncleanness; a)      […]

Toharot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Toharot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah provides some basic rules as to the implications of the levels of impurity in common food, meaning non-sacred food, neither terumah nor sacrifices.   Mishnah Three 1)      First [degree uncleanness] in common food is unclean and conveys uncleanness; 2)      Second [degree uncleanness] invalidates but does not […]

Toharot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Toharot, Chapter Tow, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah is the same pattern as yesterday’s mishnah, except it deals with terumah. As we shall see, the rules governing terumah are one degree stricter than those governing common food.   Mishnah Four 1)      First [degree] and second [degree uncleanness] in terumah are unclean and convey uncleanness;   […]

Toharot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Toharot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah is the same as the previous two mishnayot except it discusses holy food, such as sacrifices. Again, the purity rules are one degree stricter.   Mishnah Six 1)      First, second and third [degrees of uncleanness] in holy foods are unclean and convey uncleanness;   2)      Fourth [degree […]

Toharot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Toharot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Today’s mishnah builds on the three previous mishnayot but adds in the factor of liquids, which as we have seen on many occasions, amplify impurity.   Mishnah Seven 1)      Second [degree uncleanness] in common food conveys uncleanness to unconsecrated liquids and causes invalidity to terumah food. 2)      Third […]

Toharot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Toharot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction In today’s mishnah Rabbi Eliezer presents his version of exactly how defilement works. The disagreement between Rabbi Eliezer and the other sages is brought at the end of this mishnah.   Mishnah Seven Rabbi Eliezer says: the three of them are equivalent. 1)      The first degree of uncleanness […]

Toharot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 8

Toharot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      If one eats food with second [degree uncleanness   he must not work in an olive-press.   2)      Common food that was prepared under conditions proper to the cleanness of consecrated food is still regarded as common food.   a)      Rabbi Elazar bar Zadok says: it is regarded as […]

Toharot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Toharot, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction We have learned previously that impure liquids always have impurity in the first degree. Only food can have second and third degree impurity. Our mishnah deals with liquids that then become solids.   Mishnah One 1)      Sauce, bean-mash and milk, when in a condition of fluidity, are unclean […]

Toharot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Toharot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      Rabbi Meir says: oil always remains unclean in the first degree. a)      And the sages say: honey also.  b)      Rabbi Shimon Shezuri says: also wine.  2)      A mass of olives that fell into an oven that was heated: a)      If [the olives] were exactly the size […]

Toharot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Toharot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction Today’s mishnah continues to deal with cases where one drop comes out of something, becomes impure through contact with the food from which it came and then conveys uncleanness back to the food.   Mishnah Three 1)      A man who had corpse uncleanness who pressed olives or grapes:   […]

Toharot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Toharot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with food that originally was large enough to be impure (or to have some other rule apply to it) and then became smaller because it was left out in the sun.   Mishnah Four 1)      If an egg’s bulk of food was left in the […]

Toharot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Toharot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah begins a new subject which will be discussed until the end of chapter six—cases of doubtful impurity. Our mishnah deals with a doubt concerning when something became impure or became susceptible or unsusceptible to impurity.   Mishnah Five 1)      All cases of uncleanness are determined according […]

Toharot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Toharot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      If a deaf-mute, a person not of sound senses, or a minor was found in an alley way   that contained something that was unclean, he is presumed to be clean. 2)      But any one of sound senses is presumed to be unclean.   3)      And anyone/anything that […]

Toharot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Toharot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      A child who was found at the side of a graveyard with lilies in his hand, and the lilies grew only in a place of uncleanness, he is nevertheless clean, for I could say that another person gathered them and gave them to him.   2)      So […]

Toharot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Toharot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      A child  was found next to dough with a piece of dough in his hand: a)      Rabbi Meir says that the dough  is clean;   b)      But the sages say that it is unclean, since it is the nature of a child to slap dough.   2)      Dough […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction In the cases in this mishnah a clean loaf of bread is thrown among an unclean pile of keys, or an unclean key is thrown among a pile of clean loaves of bread. The question is: are the loaves or loaf made impure.   Mishnah One 1)      One […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 10

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Our mishnah continues to deal with cases of doubtful impurity involving liquids.   Mishnah Ten 1)      Rabbi Yose says: a condition of doubt in the case of liquids is deemed unclean in respect of food and clean in respect of vessels.   2)      How so? If there were two […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 11

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eleven   Mishnah Eleven 1)      “If there is doubt concerning the hands as to whether they have contracted uncleanness, have conveyed uncleanness or have attained cleanness, they are deemed clean.”   2)      “Any doubt that arose in a public domain is deemed clean. 3)      “A condition of doubt concerning an ordinance of […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 12

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Twelve   Mishnah Twelve 1)      “A condition of doubt concerning non-sacred food”–this refers to the cleanness practiced by Pharisees.   2)      “A condition of doubt concerning a sheretz” –according [to their condition at] the time they are found.   3)      “A condition of doubt concerning negaim”  — it  is deemed clean in the […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 13

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Thirteen   Mishnah Thirteen “And a condition of doubt concerning sacrifices”—if a woman has experienced five doubtful cases of miscarriage or five discharges of doubtful zivah she brings only one sacrifice and may then eat other sacrifices, she being under no obligation to bring the remainder.   Explanation The final mishnah […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two A dead sheretz that was held in the mouth of a weasel that was passing over loaves of terumah and it is doubtful whether the sheret did or did not touch them, in such condition of doubt [the loaves] are clean.   Explanation As in yesterday’s mishnah, […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah is based on the distinction that we have seen several times already—if the source of impurity was moving, and we are not sure if it defiled someone or something, the doubt remains pure. But if the source of impurity was considered to be stationary, the doubt […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      An olive’s bulk of corpse was held in a raven’s mouth and it is doubtful whether it overshadowed a person or vessels in a private domain: a)      The person’s condition of doubt is deemed to be unclean   b)      But the vessels’ condition of doubt is deemed […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah deals with six cases where a person touched something of doubtful impurity and then touched terumah. In these six cases the terumah must be burned, as if we were certain that the terumah had been defiled. Note that this is the mishnah’s way of saying that […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction Our mishnah deals with spittle that is found and whether or not one must treat it as impure lest it have come from a zav or a nidah, both of whose spit is impure.   Mishnah Six 1)      Two kinds spittle, one of which was [possibly] unclean and […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah introduces all sorts of cases of doubt where the sages ruled that something was clean. Except for the first case, the remainder of the list is explained from mishnah eight until the end of the chapter. Therefore, we will not explain these sections here.   Mishnah […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Today’s mishnah begins to explain cases of doubtful uncleanness that the rabbis rule pure.   Mishnah Eight 1)      “A doubt concerning an object of uncleanness that floated upon water:”   2)      [It is clean] whether the water was in vessels or in the ground. a)      Rabbi Shimon says: if […]

Toharot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 9

Toharot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      “In the case of a doubt concerning liquids as to whether they have contracted uncleanness it is deemed unclean:”  a)      How so? b)      If an unclean person stretched his foot between clean liquids and there is doubt whether he touched them or not, such a condition […]

Toharot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Toharot, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah brings up a series of cases in which one of two possible things occurred—one which would have caused him to be impure and one in which he was not impure. In the end of the mishnah we can see that the rabbis and Rabbi Akiva disagree […]

Toharot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Toharot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah is a direct continuation of yesterday’s mishnah, in which a person was not sure if he had been defiled in the public domain.   Mishnah Two 1)      One who said, “I touched an object but I do not know whether it was unclean or clean,” or […]

Toharot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Toharot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction Today’s mishnah goes back to the case of the two paths, one pure and one impure. The case discussed here is one where he walks down both paths.   Mishnah Three 1)      If there were two paths, the one unclean and the other clean, and one walked on […]

Toharot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Toharot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah is basically the same mishnah as yesterday’s mishnah, except the doubt about whether the person was impure is slightly different. In today’s mishnah the person is not sure whether he touched a frog, in which case he is pure, or a sheretz, a dead creepy crawly […]

Toharot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Toharot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      If there were two paths, the one unclean and the other clean, and a man walked by one of them and then prepared clean food, and subsequently another man came and walked by the second path and then prepared clean foods: 2)      Rabbi Judah rules: if […]

Toharot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Toharot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah contains the same ruling as yesterday’s mishnah, it just refers to a different case of doubtful impurity. Whereas yesterday’s case discussed a situation in which we are not sure which of two men walked down an impure path, today’s mishnah discusses a case where we are […]

Toharot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Toharot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      If a man sat in a public domain and someone came and trod on his clothes, or spat and he touched his spit, on account of the spit terumah must be burnt, but on account of the clothes the majority principle is followed.   2)      If a […]

Toharot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 8

Toharot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eight   Introduction The spit of a woman who is a menstruant is impure. Women who are menstruating are expected not to go around spitting in the public domain. Our mishnah deals with a town in which there are women who may not observe this—i.e. they go around spitting. Glad this […]

Toharot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 9

Toharot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The final mishnah of chapter five deals with cases where witness testify as to whether a person had been defiled.   Mishnah Nine 1)      If one witness says, “You have become unclean,” but he says, “I have not become unclean,” he is regarded as clean. 2)      If two […]

Toharot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Toharot, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      A place that was a private domain and then became a public domain  and then was turned again into a private domain: while it is a private domain any condition of doubt arising in it is unclean but while it is a public domain any condition […]

Toharot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Toharot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      There are four cases of doubt which Rabbi Joshua ruled are unclean and the sages rule are clean. 2)      How so? If an unclean man stood  and a clean man passed by  or the clean man stood and the unclean one passed by; or if an […]

Toharot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Toharot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      If a tree standing in a public domain had within it an object of uncleanness and a man climbed to the top of it, and a doubt arose as to whether he did or did not touch the object of uncleanness, such a condition of doubt […]

Toharot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Toharot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah demonstrates that the general rule that conditions of doubt in the private domain are unclean and in the public domain are clean remains stable, no matter how many doubts about the uncleanness there are.   Mishnah Four 1)      However many doubts and doubts about doubts that […]

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